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Updated: Thursday, July 24, 2003 1:26 AM EDT
MLB RECAP
Pittsburgh Pirates
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
6 12 0
Cincinnati Reds
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Stats: Batting | Pitching
R H E
5 11 0
W Boehringer (5-2)
L Mercker (0-2)
S Lincoln (3)
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PITTSBURGH 6, CINCINNATI 5
 

CINCINNATI (Ticker) -- The Pittsburgh Pirates did not let their recent fire sale dampen their spirits.

Newly acquired Jose Hernandez tied the game with a homer in the eighth inning and Matt Stairs hit a solo blast in the top of the ninth to lift the Pirates to a 6-5 victory over the Cincinnati Reds .

After deciding they were out of the race in the National League Central, the Pirates have unloaded several commodities in recent days, including closer Mike Williams and third baseman Aramis Ramirez . But with Pittsburgh behind by a run in the eighth, one of the players it received in return for Ramirez paid immediate dividends.

Leading off the eighth, Hernandez belted new Cincinnati reliever Chris Reitsma 's first offering over the center field wall for his 11th homer.

"At the beginning of my first two at-bats, I was excited being with a new team," said Hernandez, who began his Pittsburgh career with two strikeouts. "But the third at-bat, I made contact. By the fourth at-bat, I was seeing the ball real good. I made good contact."

"He did a nice job," Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon said. "He was good defensively and got a big hit. He got off to a nice start."

Kent Mercker (0-2) replaced Reitsma to start the ninth and recorded an out before serving up Stairs' 12th homer of the season and fourth against Cincinnati, giving the Pirates a 6-5 lead.

"It was a hanging slider," Mercker said. "It wasn't a bad idea, just a bad location. ... I've made bad pitches before that they've popped up or swung at and missed. Then there's vice-versa. That's how it is when you're not going well, but I don't have Dr. Phil on my speed dial yet. I'm not ready for Oprah on Wednesday. After a couple more of these, I might."

"We lost (Kenny) Lofton, but that just gives me and Reggie (Sanders) and Adam (Hyzdu) a chance to play every day," Stairs said. "We got Hernandez. He might strike out, but he plays good defense and hits with power."

The homer made a winner of Brian Boehringer (5-2), who tossed a scoreless eighth. Mike Lincoln worked the ninth for his third save since replacing Williams as the closer.

Brian Giles and Randall Simon each drove in two runs for Pittsburgh, which remained unbeaten in four games at Great American Ball Park.

Former Pirate Jose Guillen and Sean Casey had two RBI apiece for the Reds, who have lost six of their last seven to fall a season-high 12 games under .500.

Cincinnati got off to an early start against Jeff Suppan , who also is rumored to be on the trading block. D'Angelo Jimenez and Barry Larkin opened the first with singles before Guillen doubled to right field for a 1-0 lead.

Casey followed with a single that plated Larkin and Guillen for a three-run bulge.

"I told him early on he was throwing really well," McClendon said of Suppan. "They hit some that weren't really squared. They got some seeing-eye hits and took advantage of it. He settled down. He's a competitor."

The Pirates cut the deficit to 3-2 in the fourth on Giles' two-out, two-run double, and moved ahead in the following inning on Simon's two-run homer off Reds starter Ryan Dempster , who yielded four runs and eight hits in five innings.

"I thought he battled," Cincinnati manager Bob Boone said of Dempster. "He got into trouble every inning and got out of it. I think Simon gave him a lot of trouble. He spent a lot of pitches on him."

Suppan, who surrendered five runs and 10 hits in seven innings, could not hold the lead. After Larkin's one-out single in the fifth, Guillen stroked an RBI double to right-center and scored on Aaron Boone 's base hit two batters later.


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